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'Monster' black holes discovery unveiled in Wales

NuSTAR was launched in 2012. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/DPA/PA Images

A meeting in Llandudno has heard that five 'monster' black holes that were previously hidden by dust and gas have been uncovered by astronomers.

The British-led discovery suggests there may be millions more "supermassive" black holes in the universe than were previously thought.

Supermassive black holes are powerful cosmic "drains" sucking material into a point of infinite density formed from the compressed mass of hundreds of thousands to billions of suns.

High energy X-rays emitted from around the newly identified black holes revealed their presence at the centre of five galaxies.

They were detected by the American space agency Nasa's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) orbiting observatory which was launched in 2012.

The space telescope is designed to pick up extremely high energy X-rays from distant objects.

The scientists presented their findings at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting, in Llandudno.

For a long time we have known about supermassive black holes that are not obscured by dust and gas, but we suspected that many more were hidden from our view.

Thanks to NuSTAR for the first time we have been able to clearly see these hidden monsters that are predicted to be there, but have previously been elusive because of their 'buried' state.

Although we have only detected five of these hidden supermassive black holes, when we extrapolate our results across the whole universe then the predicted numbers are huge and in agreement with what we would expect to see.

– George Lansbury, Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy at the University of Durham


Stars above! Watch Venus and Jupiter over Wales

Celestial events are taking place over Wales - so bright even observers in luminous cities will get to see it, so long as the skies remain clear of clouds.

The two brightest planets in the night sky - Venus and Jupiter - have appeared to pass extremely close to one another.

This time lapse was filmed by Kevin Lewis over Anglesey.

Astronomer Dr Daniel Brown, from Nottingham Trent University, said close encounters like these occur more or less every year or so - but it's not often they can be seen from the UK.

The last time we actually had Venus move exactly in front of Jupiter was 1818 and the next time it will be in 2065. Both times this was and will not be visible from the UK.

– Dr Daniel Brown, Astronomer

So, what are the Northern Lights?

Northumberland in April. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Around three days ago the Sun launched a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection), containing millions of tons of charged particles, more or less straight at the Earth.

It is hitting the Earth's magnetic field.

Northumberland in April. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The charged particles are chanelled down the field's lines and into the Earth's atmosphere.

Here they interact with the atmosphere's atoms and produce light.

The colour depends on the atoms they hit.

You can get a forecast here.

History of Welsh sheep uncovered

Credit: Nick Potts/PA Archive/PA Images

They may have been domesticated 10,000 years ago but the genetic past of Welsh sheep has been uncovered by researchers at Aberystwyth University.

They studied eighteen native breeds and found four distinct groups.

Some breeds, like the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep, saw their genetic history mapped back to Scandinavia. They were brought here by the Vikings.

The Llandovery White Face saw its roots traced back to Roman times.

The study even found that one particular breed of sheep, exclusively from the Llyn peninsula in northwest Wales, can trace its genetics back to a single, small flock of sheep in Galway, Ireland from the early 19th century.

Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

“These findings provide the basis for future genome-wide association studies and a first step towards developing genomics assisted breeding strategies in the UK.”

– Sarah Beynon, Aberystwyth University

Third excavation at pre-historic fort in Cardiff

The 2014 excavation Credit: ITV Wales

Cardiff University says a major excavation of a prehistoric Welsh hillfort will get underway today, with local residents at the centre of efforts to uncover the prehistoric origins of Cardiff.

Over the next four weeks, around 200 members of the Caerau and Ely community will work alongside archaeologists to excavate Caerau Hillfort. It is claimed to be one of Wales' most significant yet least well-known heritage sites.

An axe fragment from the 2014 excavation. Credit: Cardiff University

Excavations in 2013 and 2014 revealed the site was occupied from the Bronze Age through to the late Roman era and beyond.

Among the finds were five large Iron Age roundhouses, a roadway, Iron Age and Roman pottery, and a decorated Iron Age glass bead.

An arrow head. Credit: Cardiff University

Last year some mind-blowing discoveries were made, which pushed back the origins of Cardiff deep into time, but we believe we’re still just scratching the surface of this incredible site, so who knows what will be uncovered this year.

– Dr Dave Wyatt, Cardiff University


Evidence unearthed of 'pre-historic feasting' in South Wales

70,000 bone fragments were analysed. Credit: Cardiff University

Researchers at Cardiff University say they have unearthed evidence of feasting in South Wales during pre-historic times.

The study is published in the journal Antiquity

Archeologists have spent 10 years analysing bone fragments in a ‘midden’ or rubbish heap at a prehistoric feasting site at Llanmaes in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Over three quarters turned out to be from pigs at a time (during the Bronze Age) when sheep and cattle were the main food animals.

Credit: Cardiff University

Scientist say, significantly, the majority of the pig bones were from just one quarter of the animal - the right forequarter – suggesting a feasting pattern.

Biomolecular analysis of teeth and bones has also demonstrated that many of the pigs were not locally-raised and may have been brought to the site from a substantial distance away.

Researchers says that is a monumental feat in prehistoric Britain.

This selective pattern of feasting principally on just one quarter of one species is genuinely globally unparalleled and particularly startling as it continued over a period of centuries during the Iron Age.

The Early Iron Age communities of South Wales and beyond would have been small and dispersed, but these feasts would have represented a time of solidarity, when people came together to feast on pig right forequarters, just as their fathers and their fathers’ fathers had done.

– Dr Richard Madgwick, Cardiff University

Clinical detergent wet wipes 'spread hospital ‘superbugs’'

Credit: Michael Rosenfeld/DPA/Press Association Images

A study led by Cardiff University says clinical detergent wet wipes used in hospitals spread so-called superbugs from one surface to another.

Researchers say the majority of infection control policies across the UK use of detergent-based products for routine cleaning in hospitals, with detergent wet wipes increasingly being used.

Bacteria found on hospital surfaces lead to infection, meaning longer patient stays and treatments.

Scientists say until now, there has been no information about the ability of clinical detergent wet wipes to remove disease-causing bacteria from these surfaces without spreading them.

The research team found the wipes were very inconsistent in their ability to remove spores of the bacteria from hospital surfaces following a wiping procedure that lasted 10 seconds.

It also says all wipes tested repeatedly spread significant amounts of bacteria over three consecutive surfaces.

Wet wipes are generally good products, but the efficacy of these products can be improved. Hospital staff must be educated to ensure these products are used properly and will not cause an unnecessary risk to staff and patients – a single wipe should not be used on multiple surfaces

– Professor Jean-Yves Maillard, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science
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